Automatic Detection of Defects in Applications without Test Oracles

Christian Murphy; Gail E. Kaiser

Automatic Detection of Defects in Applications without Test Oracles
Murphy, Christian
Kaiser, Gail E.
Technical reports
Computer Science
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Columbia University Computer Science Technical Reports
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Department of Computer Science, Columbia University
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New York
In application domains that do not have a test oracle, such as machine learning and scientific computing, quality assurance is a challenge because it is difficult or impossible to know in advance what the correct output should be for general input. Previously, metamorphic testing has been shown to be a simple yet effective technique in detecting defects, even without an oracle. In metamorphic testing, the application's ``metamorphic properties'' are used to modify existing test case input to produce new test cases in such a manner that, when given the new input, the new output can easily be computed based on the original output. If the new output is not as expected, then a defect must exist. In practice, however, metamorphic testing can be a manually intensive technique for all but the simplest cases. The transformation of input data can be laborious for large data sets, and errors can occur in comparing the outputs when they are very complex. In this paper, we present a tool called Amsterdam that automates metamorphic testing by allowing the tester to easily set up and conduct metamorphic tests with little manual intervention, merely by specifying the properties to check, configuring the framework, and running the software. Additionally, we describe an approach called Heuristic Metamorphic Testing, which addresses issues related to false positives and non-determinism, and we present the results of new empirical studies that demonstrate the effectiveness of metamorphic testing techniques at detecting defects in real-world programs without test oracles.
Computer science
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Suggested Citation:
Christian Murphy, Gail E. Kaiser, , Automatic Detection of Defects in Applications without Test Oracles, Columbia University Academic Commons, .

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